The Pinch Factor and Customer Retention

Posted on 04/07/2016 in Customer Service & Support

When working with several clients recently on how to improve customer retention and customer satisfaction levels, a repeat question we heard is: “How do we prevent customers from becoming dissatisfied in the first place?”

Here are two related and practical tips that can help you keep customers happy.

Tip #1: Be Watchful of the Pinch Factor
What is the Pinch Factor? The pinch factor pertains to situations where a customer has a mild amount of dissatisfaction, but it hasn’t become strong enough yet for them to say something like, “We’re unhappy and need you to fix a problem.”

We use the word ‘pinch’ to symbolize that the customer is feeling some mild disappointment that has not yet turned into a serious problem or ‘pain.’

Because the customer hasn’t yet expressed a serious problem, you have to be attentive for subtle clues that they feel a pinch. For example, during a telephone call, perhaps the tone of voice of the customer indicates to you that the customer isn’t completely happy. Or, perhaps you’re in the midst of a frequent email exchange with the customer and you can sense that the customer doesn’t feel that you are addressing their issue.

Be watchful of the Pinch Factor. Our advice - If you feel that a customer is dissatisfied, don’t ignore it!

Tip #2: Be pro-active when dealing with Pinch Factor situations
Do not ignore these pinch factor situations. The best customer-facing personnel are pro-active, whereas average performers ignore the potential problem. Whenever you sense that a customer is feeling a pinch, take some actions. The sooner you deal with the pinch, the better. Otherwise, you risk that the situation will worsen and become a serious pain for the customer, which is much harder to fix.

Following these three pro-active actions will help you turn a pinch factor situation into a successful customer retention story:

  1. Clarify: Ask some clarifying questions to the customer to confirm whether or not this is a pinch situation. For example, you might say something like, “I want to make sure that we’ve completely answered your question. Have we missed anything?” or “This doesn’t sound like it provides you with what you want. Have we overlooked something?”
  2. Fix it: If you confirm there is a pinch, fix it. Offer a solution or suggestion. If you need time to fix it, be clear about the actions that you are going to take to resolve the situation and when you will get back to the customer.
  3. Follow up: This is the action that can have a dramatic effect on converting an unhappy customer to a satisfied one. At an appropriate future date, either call or email the customer to check in with them to see if the issue has been resolved.

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